Velankanni (Tamil: வேளாங்கண்ணி Vēḷāŋkaņņi) officially spelled as Vailankanni (Canal of white, the river வெள்ளையாறு), also spelled as “Velanganni” (due to Tamil to English Transliteration), is a panchayat town in Nagapattinam district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It lies on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, 350 km south of Chennai (Madras) and 12 km south of Nagapattinam.
Once a port that traded with Rome and Greece, the tiny commercial center gradually lost its importance to the larger city of Nagapattinam. The canal built to link this town with Vedaranyam still lies to the west. The Vellayar, a minor branch of the Cauvery River, runs south of the town and discharges into the sea. The town was among the worst hit by the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.
The town is home to a significant Roman Catholic Latin Rite shrine dedicated to God in the name of Our Lady of Good Health, Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.
Velankanni has been chosen as one of the heritage cities for HRIDAY – Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme of Government of India.
Velankanni is home to one of the country’s biggest Catholic pilgrimage centers. The Catholic Basilica devoted to Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as the “Lourdes of the East”.The origins of this church can be traced back to the 16th century and its founding is attributed to three miracles: the apparition of Mary and Jesus to a slumbering shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the survival of Portuguese sailors assaulted by a violent sea storm. It is built in the Gothic style, was modified by Portuguese and then further expanded later on due to the influx of pilgrims. The church building was raised to the status of basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
Annually, 20 million pilgrims flock to the shrine from all over India and abroad, out which an estimated 3 million people visit the shrine during its annual festival from 29 August to 8 September. The 11-day annual festival concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September.
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